(Photo: Courtesy Open Doors)Social media is increasingly being used by Hindu extremists in India to stir up hatred of Christians; the country is number 10 on the Open Doors World Watch List.

By Peter Kenny

Extremists have been shown conducting a relentless persecution campaign against Indian Christians after video evidence showed a woman forced to burn an image of Jesus by a mob of Hindu fanatics.

In one video, men accuse a woman of being like a prostitute, claiming she took bribes to become a Christian, the Tablet reported in mid-September citing Open Doors, the group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide.

They tell her: “You should worship our gods and goddesses.”

A second video from the same incident shows the Hindu nationalist mob, some wearing saffron headscarves, chanting “Hail Lord Ram” as a group of Christians are led away by police.

The constant stream of video evidence is not the product of victims or witnesses, but of perpetrators, reported the weekly Catholic newspaper.

Groups of vigilantes advocating a radical Hindutva (Hindu Nationalist) ideology harass and attack Christians, especially in rural areas.

They take away their phones and film their crimes and openly post them on social media as propaganda designed to terrify minority groups.

VIGILANTE GROUPS ACCUSE

“Vigilante groups falsely accuse Christians of taking bribes to convert from Hinduism,” said Dr. David Landrum, director of advocacy at Open Doors UK and Ireland.

“As punishment, they routinely humiliate Christians, forcing them to burn images of Christ or repeat slogans against Christianity. It is part of a wider trend of violence towards religious minorities in India which has become far more socially acceptable in recent years.”

Open Doors reported on Aug. 12 that as India was to mark the 74th anniversary of independence, Christians and other religious minorities across the country speak of a growing climate of intolerance and intrusion.

The climate is whipped up by Hindu extremist groups utilizing social media like Facebook and WhatsApp.

Videos go viral for different reasons, according to Open Doors.

Often, it’s because of something funny, profound, or unusual.

In India, the two videos that recently went viral showed something very different – and highly disturbing.

Open Doors said the first featured a 300-strong group of Hindu extremists storming a Christian community.

SHOUTING ABUSE

The group shouted hateful abuse, beat believers, and threatened to put them in jail for forcibly converting people to Christianity during the incident. Part of the attack was filmed and shared online.

In the second video, a fearful Christian woman who had already burnt Bibles under pressure from Hindu extremists says she is a Hindu.

She spoke after the group said she had been paid to convert to Christianity, which she denied.

The woman was then given a lit piece of paper to burn Christian literature. A recording of this was shared online and circulated widely.

Those incidents underpin the role social media increasingly play in stirring up hatred against Christians in India – as highlighted in Destructive Lies, a report delivered to the UK Parliament in July that reveals the extreme persecution facing Christians, Muslims, and other religious minorities in India.

Later in the month, Hindu activists pressured authorities in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state.

UCA News reported that the Sept. 26 deadline they set for the government to demolish Christian churches passed without action.

More than 1,000 Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists protested in front of the headquarters of tribal-dominated Jhabua district, demanding action from the government.

The VHP had set Sept. 26 as the deadline for the administration to demolish all Christian churches on tribal land, alleging illegal structures.

The administration, which works under the government-run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ignored the deadline.

This story first appeared on ecumenicalnews.com